Panosteitis is a bone disease that affects young dogs. It is most common in large-breed male dogs. The disease trends to affect the shafts of the bones more than the ends of the bones. The disease is most common in the ulna, a bone between the elbow and wrist, but can affect other long bones of the limbs, such as the humerus, tibia, radius and the femur.

    The cause of panosteitis is unknown, although recent evidence suggests the possibility of a link between the disease and high-calorie and high-protein diets.

    Lameness in one or more legs is the most common clinical sign. This is often a “shifting leg lameness,” going from one leg to another over time. Lameness can range in severity from mild to moderate and is not associated with the time of day or any period of rest. Lameness is usually worsened with excessive activity and exercise. Rarely, fever, depression and loss of appetite can occur.

    Deep palpation of the shafts of the long bones usually results in a marked pain response.

    The diagnosis is made by a combination of compatible clinical signs and X-ray findings. X-rays usually demonstrate thickening in the marrow cavity of affected bones. X-rays are very important to differentiate panosteitis from other diseases of the fast-growing dogs that often need surgical correction, such as elbow disorders and cartilage disorders (called osteo-chondritis dissecans).

    The treatment for panosteitis is rest and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS). These drugs help alleviate the pain associated with panosteitis. This disease almost always resolves with time.

    The disease may develop in other long bones after signs subside in the original bone—hence, a shifting leg lameness.

    Prognosis is excellent because the disease usually resolves on its own. Secondary complications are rare, and surgery is never indicated, unless other bone diseases are present concurrently.


Dr. Karsten Fostvedt is a veterinarian at St. Francis Pet Clinic in Ketchum.

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